Sufyan ath-Thawri ibn Said (Arabic: سفيان بن سعيد الثوري) (716–778) was a Tābi‘ al-Tābi‘īn Islamic scholar and jurist, founder of the Thawri madhhab. He was also a great hadith compiler (muhaddith).
Abu ‘Abd Allah Sofyan ibn Sa’id al-Thauri was born in 97 (715) at Kufa and studied first under his father, and later with many learned men, attaining high proficiency in Traditions and theology.
In 158 (775) he collided with the authorities and was compelled to go into hiding in
Mecca; he died in 161 (778) at Basra. He founded a school of jurisprudence which survived for about two centuries; living a strictly ascetic life,
he was claimed by the Sufis as a saint.
Sofyan-e Thauri and the caliphs The scrupulousness of Sofyan-e Thauri manifested
itself even before he was born. One day his mother was on the roof of her house and put in her mouth a few pickles from her neighbour’s roof. Sofyan gave such a
violent kick against his mother’s womb that she thought she had lost him.
It is reported that the caliph of those days was praying before Sofyan, and whilst at prayer he twirled his moustache.
“This is not a proper kind of prayer,” Sofyan called out. “Tomorrow on the resurrection plain this prayer will be flung into your face like a dirty rag.” “Speak a little more gently,” said the caliph. “If I should hold my hand back from such a responsibility,”
Sofyan answered, “my urine would turn to blood.” The caliph was angered by these remarks, and ordered him to be put on the gallows.
“Then no one else will be so bold before me,” he said. On the day when the gallows were erected, Sofyan was lying with his head in the bosom of a great saint
and his feet in the lap of Sofyan ibn Oyaina, fast asleep. The two saints, learning that the gallows were being prepared, said to one another, “Let us not tell him.” At
this point Sofyan awoke “What is happening?” he asked. They told him, exhibiting much distress.
“I am not so greatly attached to life,” Sofyan commented. “But one must discharge one’s duty so long as one is in this world.”
His eyes filling with tears, he prayed, “Lord God, seize them with a mighty seizing!”
The caliph at that moment was seated on his throne surrounded by the pillars of state. A thunderbolt struck the palace, and the caliph with his ministers was swallowed by the earth.
“What a well-received and quickly answered prayer!” exclaimed those two noble saints.
Another caliph sat on the throne who believed in Sofyan. It so happened that Sofyan fell ill. Now the caliph had a Christian physician, a great master and
extremely clever. He sent him to Sofyan to treat him.
When he examined his urine, he remarked, “This is a man whose liver has turned to blood out of the fear of God. It is flowing little by little out of his bladder. The religion which such a man holds,” he added, “cannot be false.” And he immediately turned Muslim.
“I thought I was sending the physician to the bed of a sick man,” the caliph commented. “In reality I sent the sick man to treat the physician.”
Anecdotes of Sofyan-e Thauri
One day Sofyan with a friend was passing the door of a notable. The friend gazed at the portico. Sofyan rebuked him.
“If you and your like did not gaze so at their palaces, they would not commit such extravagance,” he said. “By gazing you become partners in the sin of this extravagance.”
A neighbour of Sofyan’s died, and Sofyan went out to pray at his funeral. After that he heard people saying, “He was a good man.”
“If I had known that other men approved of him,” said Sofyan, “I would never have taken part in his funeral. Unless a man is a hypocrite, the others do not
approve of him!”
One day Sofyan put on his clothes all awry. When this was pointed out to him, he was on the point of adjusting them, but then abstained. “I put on this shirt for God’s sake,” he said. “I do not wish to change it for the sake of men.” A youth missed the pilgrimage, and he sighed.“I have performed forty pilgrimages,” Sofyan told
him. “I bestow them all on you. Will you bestow this sigh on me?”
“I do,” said the youth. That night Sofyan dreamed that a voice said to him,
“You have made such a profit on the transaction that, if it were divided up amongst all the pilgrims at Arafat, they would be rich indeed.”
One day Sofyan was eating a piece of bread when a dog happened along. He gave the bread to the dog, bit by bit. “Why did you not eat it with your wife and child?”
he was asked. “If I give bread to the dog,?’ he replied, “he keeps watch over me all through the night so that I can pray.
If I give it to my wife and child, they hold me back from my devotions.”
Once Sofyan was travelling to Mecca in a litter. A companion was with him, and Sofyan wept all the way.
“Do you weep out of fear for your sins?” asked his friend. Sofyan stretched out his hand and plucked some stubble.
“My sins are many,” he replied. “Yet though my sins are many, they mean no more to me than this handful of stubble. What makes me afraid is whether the faith
I am offering is really faith or no.”
An illustration of the compassion Sofyan showed to all God’s creatures is provided by the following story. One day he saw in the market a bird in a cage, fluttering
and making a pitiful sound. He bought it and set it free. Every night the bird would come to Sofyan’s home and watch all night while Sofyan prayed, perching on
him from time to time.
When Sofyan died and was being borne to the grave, that bird insisted on joining the procession and wailed pitifully along with the rest of the mourners.
When Sofyan was committed to the dust, the bird dashed itself to the ground. A voice issued from the tomb, “Almighty God has forgiven Sofyan for the compassion he showed to His creatures.” The bird died too, and joined Sofyan.